There’s a different feeling around Robert E. Lee High School this time of year than in the past handful of years.
That’s because the Tyler Lee football team is preparing for a playoff game for the first time since 2014.
“It’s exciting,” Lee football coach Kurt Traylor said. “The kids are recharged. It’s great for the community and for the school district. Our high school principal, Dr. Dan Crawford, he’s excited as I am, because he knows how hard we work, how hard these kids have worked and how hard my coaching staff has worked.
“We want to grow off of this and keep going. We know we’ve got a tough opponent Friday night. We’ll show up and play our tails off.”
The Red Raiders (6-4) are taking on Waco Midway (7-3), which is the same opponent they faced in 2014. The game will have a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday at Panther Stadium in Hewitt.
There will be a community-wide pep rally for the Red Raiders at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Seniors Elliott Davison and Jamal Ligon have played a pivotal role in helping the Red Raiders return to the playoffs, and both players are ready to begin their postseason journey.
“I feel like we have a good game plan and we’re prepared,” Davison said. “We’ve just got to go to battle. We know there’s a lot on the line. We’ve got to put all of our effort and execute to the best that we can.”
“The feeling is surreal,” Ligon said. “It’s been a goal of ours since our freshman year. We knew we had to start something and build a culture; that was always our goal. Now, we’re finally taking the steps toward doing that.”
The winner of Friday’s game will advance to face either McKinney or Garland Naaman Forest in the area round.
Temple (8-2) at Longview (10-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday, Lobo Stadium
It will be the top offense from District 12-6A against the top defense from District 11-6A.
Temple led 12-6A with 492.9 yards per game and have scored 481 points this season. Vance Willis has guided the Temple offense with 1,672 passing yards and 18 touchdowns.
Willis will go up against a Longview defense that holds opponents to 182.2 yards per game and has surrendered just 84 points all season.
At quarterback for the Lobos is Texas A&M pledge Haynes King, who is 107 of 181 for 1,588 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s also rushed for 410 yards and eight touchdowns.
Killeen Harker Heights (4-6) at Rockwall (8-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium
Harker Heights finished near the bottom of District 12-6A in offense with 324.5 yards per game, but had one of the league’s better defenses at 305.7 yards allowed per contest.
Rockwall led 11-6A in offense with 501.9 yards per game but surrendered 396.9 yards per game.
Harker Heights running back Andre Gebhardt has rushed for 1,140 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Mikelle Mason has 36 catches for 824 yards and seven touchdowns.
On the other side, Rockwall had a player finish in the top three in 11-6A in all three major offensive categories. Zach Henry has rushed for 1,047 yards and 14 touchdowns. Braedyn Locke is 171 of 289 for 2,914 yards with 36 touchdowns and six touchdowns. Ohio State commit Jaxon Smith-Njigba has 68 catches for 1,434 yards with 23 touchdowns.
Mesquite (7-3) vs. Killeen Shoemaker (7-3), 7 p.m. Friday, Mansfield’s Newsome Stadium
This is a rare first-round playoff matchup between teams that both finished third in district.
Shoemaker quarterback has thrown for 1,545 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions.
La’Darius Turner leads the Mesquite offense. He has rushed for 1,114 yards and 14 touchdowns.